2013-01-14

It's Monday and the factory tours are starting up again. Today's destination is a logistics facility called CTS that works with big brands like Apple, Beats by Dre, etc, and suprisingly, Little Bits. The security was extremely heavy at this facility and we needed to provide passports and go through security clearance before we entered the facility. Cameras were unfortunately not allowed since Apple products are housed there so there are no pictures of this facility. 

The first area we were taken to is the packaging department. For mass production, most people including myself only consider the production of the actual product. However there are also separate assembly lines for the packaging. We were watching one popular consumer product getting packaged up and there were eighteen people in the assembly line. It starts with an empty acrylic box. Paper inserts were put in the front and back with the company logo and product picture. A molded insert was then added to hold the product, labels were added, barcode stickers, documentation, accessories, styrofoam bag to encase the main device, and then the final product was put into a shipping box. 
 
2013-01-11

Day four of the Shenzhen trip and the destination was a contract manufacturer called Eagle. They had both a plastics injection molding side and also an electonics assembly manufacturing side. Bunnie chose this site to provide a contrast to Colinda which is the injection molding factory we saw earlier.

For the injection molding side, it's our third plastics factory we visited so there wasn't a whole lot that was new to us. However it was interesting to see how their process differed from the others. It was obvious that Colinda was a smaller factory, Kunda was specialized in huge automotive tooling and specialty plastics, and Eagle had more of a polished operational process.

2013-01-10

This is day 3 of the MIT Media Lab organized Shenzhen Trip and it feels like it's already been an eternity. I can feel a lot of my attitudes towards design changing by seeing the manufacturing flows and factories. Previously I would unconsciously limit myself to different possibilities because things like doing an injection molded enclosure felt outside of my reach in terms of cost and volume. After seeing and talking to the people here, many are willing to take on all kinds of projects and offer a lot of help. It all depends on the relationship you have with them. It's a very Asian thing.

Today we're taking a break from the factory tours and going to the South China Market. This market is kind of in the middle of nowhere about an hour's drive outside of Shenzhen. It's a huge market spanning probably a few kilometers on each side and rather than small stalls, each manufacturer occupies a proper shop space. The storefront is just a showroom and you go into the shops to discuss business with each manufacturer.

2013-01-09

 Okay, I think there were some issues with the old pages that I put the original journal on. I've just moved them to some new pages that should be faster. Sorry about that.

Anyhow, on with the story. Today, we went on a tour of a bag and luggage factory in the Dongguan area. It's really nice because it's a change from the decidedly tech nature of the trip. Many of the Media Lab members are interested in textiles and soft circuits, and Bunnie and I have pretty much seen a lot of electronics assembly lines.

2013-01-08

The first day of tours started and it was an amazing experience. I've never been really super interested in the process of injection molding but after seeing how things are done, I found the subject fascinating. We started the day off taking the van to an injection molding factory. The owner of the factory welcomed us with open arms and surprisingly allowed us to take pictures inside the facility.

Our first stop was a meeting room where the owner brought out samples of injection molded devices for us to examine. Coleman, an injection molding expert from AQS (a contract manufacturer that's helping us organize the tours) and Bunnie were explaining how the parts were made, the materials, finish, what decisions went into making the mold, defects, and identifying the markings from the different parts of the mold. I was impressed how much information could be had just by looking at a plastic enclosure. They were able to reverse engineer the design tradeoffs that the designers had to make, some bad decisions, and were easily able to approximate the cost of the tooling and cost per part.

2013-01-06 - The Beginning

It started out with me, Bunnie, and some other members of Tokyo Hackerspace on one of his trips to Tokyo about six months ago. We were talking about possibly doing a summer hacker train trip across Northern Siberia using the TransSiberian Railway or the Baikal Amur Mainline which runs parallel to it to tour the back country of Russia. This actually turned into an active project and one of the (crazier) girls in Tokyo Hackerspace is organizing the trip for this summer. Here's more info.

Of course we were also getting buzzed off of beers at the izakaya we were at when Bunnie casually mentioned that he might do a month long workshop in Shenzhen for MIT Media Lab. The purpose was to teach the grad student designers about how to take their designs to manufacturing. My immediate reflex when I heard "month, shenzhen, manufacturing, bunnie" was to force myself into the project. 

So here I am, prepping to leave for Hong Kong today, then take a bus up into Shenzhen to meet up with Bunnie. He's arranged living apartments for all the participants including myself and Sean Cross (formerly of Chumby) as mentors. The MIT Media Lab students are grad student designers and this is technically an (independent activities period (IAP)) study project.

2013-01-06 - The Beginning

It started out with me, Bunnie, and some other members of Tokyo Hackerspace on one of his trips to Tokyo about six months ago. We were talking about possibly doing a summer hacker train trip across Northern Siberia using the TransSiberian Railway or the Baikal Amur Mainline which runs parallel to it to tour the back country of Russia. This actually turned into an active project and one of the (crazier) girls in Tokyo Hackerspace is organizing the trip for this summer. Here's more info.

Of course we were also getting buzzed off of beers at the izakaya we were at when Bunnie casually mentioned that he might do a month long workshop in Shenzhen for MIT Media Lab. The purpose was to teach the grad student designers about how to take their designs to manufacturing. My immediate reflex when I heard "month, shenzhen, manufacturing, bunnie" was to force myself into the project. 

So here I am, prepping to leave for Hong Kong today, then take a bus up into Shenzhen to meet up with Bunnie. He's arranged living apartments for all the participants including myself and Sean Cross (formerly of Chumby) as mentors. The MIT Media Lab students are grad student designers and this is technically an (independent activities period (IAP)) study project. 

The rough schedule is that the first week, we'll be touring different factories in Shenzhen. The confirmed tours are two plastics injection molding shops, a sporting goods factory, an electronics contract manufacturer, and an electronics telecom manufacturer.  The second week, we'll be doing an in-depth tour of the shenzhen marketplaces and discussing components, component selection, and possibly a tour of the South China Fabric City (which I'm really looking forward to). One of my personal goals is to try and map out the Shenzhen marketplace in detail, although I'm not sure how possible this is since the workload is still undefined. 

The third week will be more independent where the students can do whatever they need to further their design/manufacturing projects. Bunnie, Sean, and I will be around to offer advice and help on the design/manufacturability aspects. On the final day of the third week, we'll be having a mini conference with HAXLR8R, SeeedStudio, and Dangerous Prototypes, along with others in the OSHW community out in Shenzhen. 

So this post is mainly to kick off the journal of my experiences as a mentor for the MIT Media Lab IAP2013 in Shenzhen, China. It'll definitely be interesting, and hopefully shed more light on how things work in Shenzhen :)

Happy New Year everybody!

It's been a while since I wrote on my blog. It's unfortunate because last year was extremely rich in new experiences for me. The converse is also true though and it's also been one of my busiest years. I'm still wondering how I could stay so busy and still be broke all the time. Ha ha ha. 

I'd first like to thank everyone that helped contribute to get Hackermoms funded from the very bottom of my heart. What hackermoms is doing is great and my sister Sho Sho was telling me how much it's changed her life, the other mom's lives, and also affecting the lives of the children positively. Now that I see it, it's obvious that all of the creativity overflows into the children's lives and they're constantly creating too. It's wonderful :)
 
  

Hi everyone.

I made some bug fixes to the chibiArduino stack. The main fix is to prevent the wireshark bridge firmware crashing when there is heavy traffic. It was a stupid mistake where I had the wrong data type for checking to make sure the buffer didn't overflow. That's been fixed so if you're running WSBrige under heavy network traffic or if you're using a large radio buffer with heavy traffic, then you should see the behavior become much more stable. 

There are some other minor fixes as well and I also added support for the AT86RF212 and the AT86RF231. Hopefully there should finally be some interesting stuff coming out soon. Things were too crazy the past year and a half with all the stuff going on in Tokyo Hackerspace and Safecast. 

Anyways, that's about it. Here's the link to the project page:

Link

 

Here are the pics that are included in the FabTile package for the soldering and assembly of the board:


Almost one year ago, I helped raise funds for a new hackerspace called Mothership Hackermoms . It’s an extremely unique hackerspace dedicated to mothers and the challenges they face in terms of schedule, tools, childcare, and of course safety. It’s still difficult to believe that only one year ago, it was largely a glimmer in the eye of a handful of moms. In that year, they were able to successfully acquire a space, spoke at the huge Bay Area Maker Faire, became a pillar in the local maker community, hosted many extremely unique events, and became a refuge, oasis, and an inspiration to many frazzled mothers. 

I had the pleasure of spending a few days with hackermoms last time I was in Oakland visiting my sister (Sho Sho Smith), one of the founders of hackermoms. It was easy to fall in love with the space, people, and of course the children there and I found myself spending quite a bit of time in the playroom with the kids. The things I remember the most are hearing the members talk about how hackermoms changed their life, seeing a huge increase in confidence in my sister, and the fearless approach my 4 year old niece exhibited towards making things (as well as asking me to buy supplies to make those things).  

fabtile scarlett_magenta fabcafe

Captions: [left] Mothership Hackermoms in their space in Berkeley [middle] Me and my two nieces, Scarlett and Magenta. They're regulars at Hackermoms [right] A FabTile workshop at FabCafe

Today was kind of strange. I normally am pretty busy doing designs. It's busy enough that I try to ignore as many distractions as possible, try not to leave the house, and mainly just concentrate on what I'm designing, milling, assembling, or whatever else needs to be done. But a Kickstarter project was brought to my attention via Twitter that for some reason, struck enough of an emotional chord in me, that I felt the need to comment on it .

I'm not a stranger to posting comments. Most people that know me also know that I'm opinionated and can sometimes be a bit of a jerk about it. This was a bit different though because not only did it require me to spend the time and thought to write the comment, but I also had to pay $10 to do it. The issue at hand was a Kickstarter project that, in it's campaign sales pitch, overtly stated that it was a direct clone of the Makerbot Replicator . It was actually used as a selling point.
Thanks for the patience. I'm back from vacation and it was quite invigorating :)